wikiHow to Clean and Oil a Leather Bridle

If you ask anyone involved with horses and riding, they will say that cleaning and oiling leather tack and gear is one of the worst jobs. But it's one of those jobs that needs to be done, as while cleaning and oiling you'll also be checking for broken leather, stitching that may need to be replaced, and you're keeping your leather gear oiled so it doesn't crack and so it looks nice when you go to a show or just out for a pleasure ride.


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    Make sure you have the right equipment and cleaning products. The worst thing is undoing all the straps and buckles only to find that you have run out of leather ointment or saddle soap and having to wait until you get some more. The best products are beeswax products, they help to keep the moisture in while making the leather clean and waterproof. There are many other good cleaning products available for use, such as Neats Foot Oil, Theather Dressing, Saddle Soap etc. There are also products made by saddle and bridle companies to be used with their gear, such as Wintec's Saddle Cleaner. As this is a synthetic saddle, the cleaner should be a non-water mix, and be a wipe on wipe off product. You also need to make sure you have some equipment to help you while cleaning. These include:
    • A Hoof Pick -Often bridles have buckles and holes that require some tempting. You can use a hoof pick as it is easy to hold and isn't going to mark your leather.
    • Tooth Picks -Use these to get dirt and muck out of holes as well as pushing cleaning products through holes on throat latch and nose band, as they may become clogged with wax.
    • Towels or Cloths -It's best to have a separate towel for the first cleaning, to remove dirt and grass build-up, a second one for the oiling, a third for wiping the oil and wax off, and a fourth for polishing and shining the leather. You don't need to have 4 but it is recommended you have more than one or two.
    • Newspaper -If you're inside newspaper is essential so you don't get oil and wax on the kitchen table, or on the floor, as they can become slippery and may stain the furniture. It is best to clean outside as the smells may cause asthma and breathing difficulties.
    • A Bucket and Warm Water - To clean and rinse bits and chains.
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    Select the piece of gear that requires cleaning. For the purpose of this article, a bridle will be used.
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    Look at your bridle before undoing any buckles. Once undone, you can't go back. A good idea is to draw a picture of what it looks like, or even better, take some photos, so it's easier to remember where each piece should go. You can also use another bridle as an example. Remember though, straps and buckles leave an indent, so this is a good way to put the bridle back to the right size.
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    Undo reins and bit from the bridle.
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    Soak the bit in a bucket of warm water. Don't add any detergent, as they contain products that are not good for horses. We will come back to the bit after the oiling is finished. This time is available for soaking.
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    Undo all buckles and put the pieces in a formation so it resembles a bridle and where each piece should go.
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    Start by using the first cloth to rub down the leather, making sure you remove any built up grass and dirt. If the bridle has stains or marks, keep these in mind and you can fix these later. You can also use some saddle soap to clean the leather.
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    Oil the bridle so it is shiny. It is beneficial to use the oil generously so it will soak in. You can oil each piece and let sit while you begin on other pieces. Then when you get back to the first piece, it will have soaked in enough. Make sure you apply liberal amounts of oil and wax to any parts that are prone to wearing such as loops, buckles and holes.
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    Rub the leather down so you remove most of the oil and wax. Make sure you get inside any holes and loops.
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    Using the final cloth, polish the leather, using short quick movements. The friction will help make it shiny.
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    Using the tooth picks, poke every hole to remove wax and oil. And place all pieces in a logical order in preparation for putting it back together.
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    Ensure you have an old toothbrush (not your younger sister's), and toothpaste. Toothpaste is non-corrosive and doesn't harm your horse, while giving a nice shine to your bit. You don't want to remove the taste, however, as after years of riding, a bit will feel natural in a horse's mouth due to the taste and smoothness. Clean the bit all over, making sure you scrub around grooves and joints.
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    Rinse the bit and let dry. You can also rub it down to hurry up the process.
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    Put all the leather pieces back together. Assistance may be required if you get stuck, so refer back to pictures and diagrams. If back together and it doesn't look right, undo and try again. When it's on the horse you will be able to get a better picture. Don't forget the bit, too.
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    Find any problems such as cuts and stains. To fix these, get a permanent marker the same colour as your leather. If you have a tan or brown bridle, you can get coloured beeswax which is used for cleaning sandshoes. Use the permanent marker by dabbing with the point until the mark is black. Because the leather is oiled, the mark will be less noticeable. Use a small amount of oil in your fingertips to rub over the marks, (when dried of course), to keep the colour from rubbing off.


  • Use an apple core or piece of apple or carrot or apple cider vinegar to rub on the bit, to make the taste more appealing to your horse, since you will have rubbed off a lot of the taste.
  • If cleaning and oiling more than one bridle, only do one bridle at a time, otherwise you may confuse parts with the wrong bridle.


  • Oil and cleaning products may cause skin irritations and breathing difficulties. Use rubber gloves and a well ventilated area. Outside is best on a warm day, not an overcast or rainy day, as the smell will linger. Ensure you have an asthma inhaler if you are prone to having difficulty when it comes to smells.

Things You'll Need

  • Bridle
  • Cleaning products
  • Gloves
  • Oil or wax
  • Cloths (more than 1)
  • Bucket
  • Warm water
  • Toothpaste and brush
  • Photographic memory, paper and pen or a camera

Article Info

Categories: Tack (Saddles and Bridles)